Appreciating France

The last days in Paris were really fun. I dragged JB around to several tourist traps he avoids like the plague. 
JB: “What is that? It’s so nice.”

Me: “Um, that’s the Eiffel Tower, JB.”

Ok, I’m exaggerating, but not too much. 

JB being a tourist

But more than anything, we laughed and joked around a lot. Blessed with beautiful weather, we made my Fitbit happy by walking everywhere, checking off Parc Buttes Chaumont, Jardin du Luxembourg, Notre Dame, Montparnasse Tower, the Louvre, Jardin de Tuileries, the Eiffel Tour and I’m sure I’m missing some stuff. 

Parc Buttes Chaurmont

Busting out the selfie stick at Notre Dame

The Louvre

Springtime in Paris

My last day in Paris was spent kicking around alone where I visited the National Library (nerd), Shakespeare and Company, the Grand Mosque and Jardin des Plantes. 

Jardin des Plantes

In the afternoon, it was time to head to Orleans to see the “belle famille” (translation, beautiful family), which is so much nicer to say than “in-laws”. On the train, I rested my forehead against the glass and watched Paris transform into the countryside. Spring is such a beautiful time in France as many of the fields resemble a fluorescent yellow and green quilt. I spent the entire train ride with the sun in my face, taking mental pictures. I also took some time to appreciate my fun, busy days in Paris and the fact that I’m here after I wasn’t sure I’d ever be again while I was sick. I was bursting with happiness, appreciation and gratitude. 

Orleans, and specifically the adorable little village of St. Cyr en Val, is a third home for me. All the neighbors are brothers and sisters of my “beautiful mother”, so the moment they heard the car coming down the path, there was a non-stop stream of visitors. 

Good timing and weather were on my side again because Thursday was Ascension Day, which is a day of prayer that also exists on the US (but without the day off work). The whole family came over and showered me with desserts, gifts, kisses and proclamations of joy for my good health. Fabien’s grandmother and grandfather spent several minutes telling me how they and the priest of the church in St. Cyr en Val pray for me constantly. The priest has even spoken of me at mass, which is very moving to hear. I appreciate so much everyone who has prayed and thought of me during the last couple of years. 

Friday evening, the “beautiful family” and I headed to Chartres for dinner and to view the illuminated cathedral. I’ve become a bit immune to European cathedrals because they start to look the same. However, I think this one will stand out in my memory forever.

Of course, without saying, the architecture is incredible. But, what I found most impressive was the stained glass, which houses the largest 13th century collection in the world. I can see why it was one of the world’s first UNESCO sites. The glass is so important to the French that it was removed and hidden during both World Wars. Just next to the cathedral is home to an international school of stained glass. Who knew such a place existed. This made me think of my grandfather whose stained glass creations were the source battle when he passed away. He would’ve loved Notre Dame de Chartres. 

Before the illumination began, I spotted my first sign of the Camino on the sidewalk and shortly after, some English speakers in hiking clothes. As it turns out, they were Canadians who are walking from Paris to Santiago via Chartres. That’s a long way. To put it in perspective, they won’t even be in Spain by the time I arrive in Santiago around June 2nd. 

When it became dark, the cathedral was lit up with mesmerizing animated images set to music. I tried to snap some pictures but then stopped knowing the photos would be unjustifiable. Plus, like many things on this voyage, this was something to be appreciated and experienced in the moment and not behind a smartphone screen.